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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Truth is Never Told — The Marijuana Prohibition

By Melissa Bentley

It's possible for Americans legally to buy and smoke marijuana in many parts of the U.S. and hopefully in the next decade pot and its byproducts will be surged legally throughout the other parts of the country, as well. None of us knows exactly when.

Anslinger and Racism 

The time was in the 1930s, and a man named Harry J. Anslinger was the Commissioner of the US Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Anslinger is for the most part responsible for Marijuana being illegal, and known to be extremely racists and wanted to create ways to incarcerate minorities. He referred to Mexican people as the “degenerate Spanish-speaking residents” and inferred that marijuana may cause white women to want to kiss black men, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. He also had a huge impact in the way the Federal government regulates narcotics in general. The movie “Reefer Madness,” which regularly appears on several stations, was released in 1936 and, as IMDB describes it, was a “fictionalized” and “exaggerated” take on marijuana that reinforced many of Anslinger's racial views. 

President Richard Nixon

Anslinger's fake prohibition stance led to marijuana being banned altogether, which was later mimicked by Nixon ignoring the Shaffer Commission and making pot a schedule 1 drug and the importance of the DEA.

The heavy stance against marijuana by the Federal government has resulted in hundreds of thousands of people being arrested and incarcerated for prolonged periods of time. Nixon first declared a "war on drugs" in 1971, followed by President Ronald Reagan's '84 Sentencing Reform Act. There were never more than 400,000 people in U.S. prisons at one time prior to '71. The number has grown since and now sits well over 3 million, according to the November Coalition, a non-profit organization.

Though President Obama sent a memo to the Justice Department urging it not to prosecute people who are abiding by state laws as they pertain to marijuana, medical growers and users continue to be arrested.

Weed Are the 99%!

Despite many states seeing the good economic and political sense in legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana, the Federal government still sees it as an illegal, dangerous drug. This conundrum has created some tense moments not only between federal and state authorities, but also between individual medical patients and local authorities.

The chances of the Federal government going into a state and arresting citizens for marijuana violations are pretty slim, but the authority does exist. Despite all the statistics and studies that continue to say otherwise; the Federal government continues to treat cannabis the same it does heroin, methamphetamine and other dangerous drugs. Colorado and Washington are leading the way towards sensibility and common sense, but there is a long way to go.

Photo by Flickr user Blind Nomad.

Melissa Bentley From Louisiana, Melissa is a jazz singer, ballroom dancer and freelance writer.

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